New Jersey Scuba Diving
Nothing new here, except that solid brass snaps have gotten harder to find and a lot more expensive. So if you find one on the bottom, leave it there for me !
Here are some ideas on minor yet important details that get little consideration. These topics are especially important to gear-laden New Jersey divers; much less so to unencumbered warm water divers.
Emergency Spares Kit
You should always bring along spare parts and some basic tools on every diving excursion. Dive shops all sell Save-a-Dive kits that are a good start on this. Here is a list of some things you might want to carry in your spares kit:
- o-rings for your tank valves and regs, and anything else that uses them
- wire ties, large and small, lots of 'em
- spare straps & buckles for mask, fins, snorkel, and knife
- spare regulator mouthpiece & wire tie
- a few feet of wreck reel line and surgical tubing
- duct tape ( squeeze a small roll flat to save space )
- silicone grease or O2 lube
- extra batteries and bulbs for all your lights, computers, and camera
- spare lanyards and brass snaps
- stainless steel dive tool with wrenches, allens, and screw drivers ( pictured above )
- stainless steel folding multi-tool with pliers, blades, and wire cutter
- glues and sealants - neoprene cement, AquaSeal, Crazy Glue
- bicycle tire patch kit - for small suit repairs
- soap, powder and wax for drysuit if necessary
- extra cam band - plastic buckles can break, especially in the cold
- extra car keys, cash, spare change, C-card, etc
Many of these items are available at the hardware store considerably cheaper than at the dive shop. All will fit neatly into a Tupperware shoebox, or a Pelikan dry box if you like to spend money. Just make sure you use something waterproof.
In the pharmaceutical department, I would also carry:
- Dramamine, if it works for you
- Aspirin or Tylenol, for those early-morning cold-water headaches
- sleep-aids for overnight trips, if you need them
I'm sure I'm going to get some flack over that last one. Yes, I know you're not supposed to take decongestants, but I make one exception for Sudafed. It is long-acting and subtle, with no noticeable side effects or rebound ( for me, anyway. ) Take a couple 15-30 minutes before the dive, and you will find you have much less difficulty clearing on the way down, especially in cold water and especially on repeat descents. Sudafed is the only decongestant I would ever use for diving, and only when in good health already - if you are not, DON'T DIVE.
Remember, spare parts and tools are of no use if they are sitting at home while you are having a problem on a dive. And even if you never need these things yourself, it is always a good feeling when you can help out someone who is less prepared than you. A spare mask is also a good item to carry; if a mask skirt tears there is no way to repair it, not even good old duct tape.
You might not think that color matters much, but I prefer light, bright colors for any accessory that I might drop or set down. This includes knives, lights, bags, weights, and many other things. Yellow is my favorite color for this.
Despite the fact that black is really the only cool color for tech divers, I prefer Coast Guard orange uppers on my drysuits. These make you easier to spot, whether in the murk of the quarry, or drifting away on the surface of the Atlantic.
All equipment must be black. Ha ha - just kidding. You guys can take a joke, right?
D-Rings & Fasteners
Diving in the North Atlantic requires a lot more accessory gear than diving in the tropics. This can include knife, spare knife, light, spare light, marker light, flag & line, slate, dive tables, goody bag, spear, spear gun, tickle stick, reel, lobster gauge, lift bags, camera and lights, hammer, and a whole lot more if you are into heavy-duty wrecking, although hopefully not all of it at the same time.
Except for the new pseudo-technical BCs, most BCs just don't have enough D-rings. One solution is to add a few stainless steel D-rings to your weight belt or harness. You can get these ready-made from your dive shop for a few dollars. The best kind are those that are welded onto a slide-buckle, so that they stand out rigidly away from your body. D-rings that are not fixed like this will inevitably fold under, making them impossible to use ( or even find ) with thick gloves on. Remember, once you are in the water with your mask on, most of yourself will be out of sight, and you will have to work everything by touch.
To connect to your D-rings, get some brass thumb snaps from your local hardware store, where they will be much cheaper than the dive shop. Get the biggest ones available in brass only ( or stainless steel, but that is very expensive and not necessary. ) The best is the kind shown above, which can be operated with just one hand. Double-ended snaps are sometimes also useful, as are small trigger snaps (below) I like to use trigger snaps for items that I would not normally want to release. Even with gloves on, you can easily feel the difference between a regular snap and a trigger snap, and that tells you that you have the wrong thing in your hand. Carabiners and swivel-eyes ( also known as "suicide clips" ) should be avoided, as both are prone to entanglement and self-release.
Attach a brass snap to every item you carry with a bit of nylon line or a wire tie, and then you can decorate yourself like a Christmas tree. By putting the snaps on all your accessories, and the loops on yourself, you achieve the maximum in configuration flexibility - you can attach anything anywhere, and switch things around as you like. Also, should an accessory or a snap itself become entangled, it is an easy matter to release it.
One thing about wire ties - they are held together by a tiny plastic pawl inside the buckle, which is a lot weaker than the rest of the apparatus and will break under strain. Some also have metal pawls which will rust over time. For heavy-duty applications, tie things together securely with a shoelace or a scrap of wreck reel line. Wire ties are really only good for light-duty temporary use.
Surgical tubing is useful for all kinds of things. One thing you can do with it is make a loose-fitting loop for your neck, and attach it to your main regulator. This will keep it up where you can always find it, and out of harm's way when entering or exiting, especially on shore dives. Just be sure that the regulator can come free from the loop in an emergency, or your buddy might tear your head off one day. The necklace configuration can also save your second stage from being crushed under your tank ( or someone else's ) when you sit down ! You can get lightweight surgical tubing in a rainbow of colors at your local fishing tackle shop. Lightweight bungee cord is an alternative to surgical tubing for many applications.
As for octopus retainers, I have not run across any design that actually works. An inadvertent tug, and your spare second stage will be trailing in the mud, hard to find, and probably unusable. This pretty much defeats its entire purpose. Instead, I tie a trigger snap to mine, and clip it off to a chest D-ring ( right-side, to avoid cross-chest entanglements should I want to get out of my BC. ) Sure, it's not going to break away easily like you were taught it should, but in real life an out-of-air diver in a panic is going to snatch your primary right out of your mouth, so that's not really an issue. At that point, you can calmly unclip your spare, and start using it yourself, and it won't be full of sand and mud. Another option is to attach both second stages to your 'necklace' as described above. This configuration is especially good when diving independent doubles, as it keeps both regs readily available.
Finally, try to make sensible use of your BC pockets. You can use pieces of shoelace to make lanyards for keys, etc, and tie them on inside the pocket. This way things won't get lost even if you accidentally knock them out.
Above are a pair of weight belt style D-rings. These are great because you can place them just about anywhere. The one on the left shows the major disadvantage of these things, though - the ring flips up ( and usually under ) in use, making it in practice nearly impossible to locate or use. The one on the right shows a simple solution to this problem: a 90 degree bend in the base of the ring prevents it from rotating in the stiff nylon web. Not only is the d-ring held rigidly straight, the bend also acts as a stand-off, holding the ring away from your body, and making it even easier to find. The best way to bend a d-ring like this without distorting it is to clamp the base of it half-way in a vise, nylon and all, and bang it over with a hammer.
DIR permits a grand total of five D-rings, in specific locations. See BCs. This artificial limitation is totally unnecessary, and in fact downright stupid. Bolt snaps are as described above, except stainless steel is encouraged over brass because you can cut yourself on brass ( but not stainless steel? I'm scratching my head over that one. )
One good idea from DIR is that every attached accessory should have a cut-able link. Snap fasteners like these do jam up with sand and grit from time to time. If an accessory should become entangled, you should be able to cut it away if the fastener jams. Tying things together with wreck line as described above satisfies this requirement.
Chances are your light or other piece of gear came with a wrist lanyard. This item is probably ok for diving in the tropics where you shouldn't be doing anything with your hands anyway, but around here it is lousy. Wrist lanyards are a pain to put on and a pain to get off, and in the case of a light, if you let go of it to do something with both hands, it will invariably get in the way and bob around until it shines in your eyes and blinds you. When you finally get fed up with it, you will take it off, and in a careless moment, your equipment will be lost. Here is a much better rig, commonly known as a "hi-lo" lanyard:
Take the wrist lanyard off, and throw it away. Get two brass snaps and a piece of rope. Braided 1/2 " nylon is what I used, because it is supple, won't rot, won't unravel, and doesn't float. Attach a brass snap to each end. You can just tie them on, or get fancy like me and make streamlined loops. The end to end length of mine is about four feet, including the snaps, but you can experiment. Attach the base ring of one of the brass snaps directly to your gear where the lanyard was.
When diving, simply clip the free end of the line to your BC or weight belt. Now there is no way you can accidentally unhook the light from the line, and you have a fastener right on the light so you can clip it on to you when you don't want to hold it, or just let it hang. This rig is very effective for a camera as well, and would be for other things in general, although too many lines hanging around you would be a problem in itself. An important feature of this design is that if it should become an entrapment, it is easy to ditch it, unlike the old brass ring under the tank valve and rope over the shoulder rig. You can also move it around wherever you like.
On shore, you can clip the two brass snaps together and sling the whole thing around your neck. For those long marches to and from the water, you can thread the line through your fin straps and any other accessories, which conveniently frees up your hands. You can tie a loose knot in the line to shorten it before climbing the ladder on a boat.
You might think that this system would be very tangle-prone, but from actual use I can tell you that it is not. In the water, I usually have my main light permanently attached at the end of the line, and a goody bag and tickle stick clipped on to the light for quick easy access. If I am using a wreck reel, I usually clip it on also, so I do not have to worry about dropping it.
Well this just looks like an entanglement hazard to me. Myself, I will take my chances with imaginary entanglements, and not lose my gear.
A Jon line is a cord used to secure yourself to the anchor line during your safety or decompression stops. This relieves you of having to hold on by hand, which can get tiring for long hangs in a strong current. You can also use a Jon line to get away from the crowd at 15 ft, while still being securely tethered to the boat.
There are a number of prefabricated Jon lines on the market that you can buy, along with several different gadgets to attach it to the anchor line, most of which are clever but not particularly reliable. For a few dollars you can build a much better Jon line with parts from the hardware store. What you will need is:
- 6 ft of bungee cord - the kind with a fabric casing
- 2 brass snaps
- 6-8 wire ties
You can probably imagine how to assemble this - just attach a snap at each end of the cord with several wire ties. To use it, simply attach the snap at one end to yourself, and wrap the other end several times around the anchor line ( to keep it from sliding, ) pull it tight and maybe knot it, and snap it to itself. You can easily push this up or down the anchor line by hand to change your depth, but otherwise it should stay where you place it.
There are a number of advantages to this rig:
- The bungee cord is tangle-free and easy to handle, yet packs up quite small in a pocket.
- The attachment works for all sizes of anchor line, and although it may slip a little, it cannot fail completely, leaving you adrift like an open hook can.
- The elastic bungee material will soak up all the shocks on the anchor line as the boat heaves, leaving you placidly floating alongside. A typical nylon Jon line will jerk you all over the place on a rough day, while holding on by hand can pull your shoulder out.
If the 6 foot length seems like too much for your conditions, just tie a big loop to shorten it.
What's a Jon Line ?
A small spray bottle of soap solution is an extremely useful item to have in your kit.
Much better than soap is baby shampoo. A solution of roughly 50% baby shampoo and 50% water is useful for many things:
- Lubricating dry suit seals
- Lubricating gloves and boots
- Finding leaks in suits, hoses, etc
- General cleaning-up
This is also the best mask defogger I have yet found - much better than anything you can buy, and it won't sting your eyes ( although it doesn't taste too good. )
There are probably a thousand other uses. Oh, and you can shower and wash your hair with it after the dive too. Works great on the dog as well.
Only unscented Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo is permitted. Ha ha ha, another joke. Joke. Joke, I said. Aw, forget it.
Moving & Storage
The standard means of moving and storing dive gear is the dive bag. All of the major manufacturers make dive gear bags. These are often quite fancy, with embroidered logos, pockets inside and out, "ergonomic" handles, and even wheels. Most of these bags are very nice but really too small to hold a cold-water dive kit, and very heavy to carry around when full. These bags are also expensive, a bother to clean, and a lot less waterproof than they claim. Here's is a convenient alternative that is much cheaper:
Go to K-Mart and spend $5 on a Rubbermaid tote box, about the size of a milk crate. This will not be big enough to hold all items - you'll have to pack your fins and BC separately - but it will hold everything else, is small enough to fit almost anywhere, and also avoids making a single excessively heavy load. The tote also will not lose small items like a milk crate will. I eventually drilled drain holes in the bottom. I now use my fancy dive bag only to carry my drysuit and its accessories. This type of tote box is the preferred container on every area dive boat I have been on.
You will also want a cooler. Your cooler packs your lunch on the way out, and your catch on the way back. I also use it as a rinse tub for cleaning gear after the dive, and sometimes pack gear in it if it's not full of other things. An 8-gallon flat-top cooler is a good size, and makes a nice seat as well. I use reusable freezer blocks instead of ice. These have the advantage of not melting into messy lobster-killing pools of fresh water. Capped-off soda bottles filled with water and frozen solid work just as well, and you can drink them as they thaw.
mask, fins, snorkel
camera, film, flash, etc.
|BC / harness||bug stick, pole spear / spear gun|
|exposure suit, under-suit||hammer, chisel, crowbar, dynamite|
|hood, gloves, boots, socks||u/w writing slate & pencil|
|regulators, gauges, octo holder|
|tanks, bands, pony bottle||spares kit, extra batteries|
|weights, belt, ankle weights||cooler, ice, food & drink|
|logbook, c-card, dive tables|
|light ( new / charged batteries )||change of clothes|
|backup light, strobe light||payment - check / cash|
|knife, backup knife|
|wreck reel, upline reel||set alarm clock|
|catch bag, lift bag||travel preparations, directions|
Everyone forgets something sometimes. The best way to stay organized and avoid forgetting things is to always pack the same way. After cleaning and drying your gear, replace it in your box or bag , ready for next time. Check again the night before the trip, especially batteries.
I make no claim as to the accuracy, validity, or appropriateness of any information found in this website. I will not be responsible for the consequences of any action that is based upon information found here. Scuba diving is an adventure sport, and as always, you alone are responsible for your own safety and well being.
Copyright © 1996-2016 Rich Galiano
unless otherwise noted